Alright! Let’s revive this...
THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Look, I didn’t go into THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS with the sole intention to tear it to shreds, I genuinely wanted to enjoy it.
Where do I begin with this book?
Listen, Margaret Peterson is probably my favorite sci-fi author of all time and I’ll always love her science fiction. That being said, I’ve now read two of her contemporary books and I didn’t enjoy either of them.
Maybe we can start with the things I actually liked about TSOBT because it wasn’t a complete dumpster fire...
I did really like Andrei and Dragomeir. I believe they were the only characters that I didn’t feel like pushing off a cliff throughout the book. I just really loved their interactions with Kayla and their goofy personalities.
I also liked that there was this whole passage in the book, where we’re basically shown that Kayla knows the difference between a healthy relationship and a toxic one, and I feel like that’s something we don’t get in YA fiction.
I should also mention another thing that this book does, that I really loved, that you don’t really see in YA literature. Okay, do you remember in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, when Hazel and Gus go to the Anne Frank House and proceed to kiss? Or in ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS when Anna and Ettienne go to that crypt and start running around? I despised both of those scenes (wasn’t a huge fan of either book either). And do you want to know why I despised both of those scenes? Because they’re in a place that should be treated with respect, and they do something that’s completely disrespectful and treated like a cute moment. THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS didn’t do that in any of the scenes we had in places that should be treated with respect - The Holocaust Museum, the Blue Room, that one creepy church they were in. All of those places were treated with respect, and I’m so glad for that.
Now, onto the bad.
I think the biggest thing that did it for me was the characters - I just couldn’t get into them.
Look, when it comes to plot, characters, or writing style, I will always go for characters. The plot could be non-existent, and the writing style could be mediocre, but if you get me hooked on your characters, I’ll love the book (so long as it isn’t problematic). Obviously, having an interesting plot and a captivating writing style is ideal, but if I had to choose one, it’d definitely be characters.
TSOBT didn’t have good main characters.
I could literally care less about Avery. Literally, when her life was flipped-turned upside-down (*ahem* THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR) I didn’t care. I feel like I was supposed to be crying during her. “struggles”, but I just didn’t feel sympathetic. At all. She almost felt...over dramatic? And literally anytime Kayla tried to bring up how awful Avery’s being, we just brush it off as, “Oh, it’s just because she’s fourteen.” No.
And Kayla was slightly more bearable, but there were a lot of times where I was just so irritated with her as well.
I almost feel like so much of the focus was put on the fact that they were so different from each other, than developing them into likable people. Like, EVERYTHING was opposite for them: Avery was blonde, Kayla was dark-haired; Avery was pretty, Kayla wasn’t; Avery was thin, Kayla wasn’t; Avery was athletic, Kayla wasn’t; Avery was rich, Kayla was poor; etc.
See what I mean?
It was also ridiculously boring. Like, for the first half of the book, nothing happened. And then we hit the halfway point, and it felt like we were just going to throw a bunch of wet toilet paper at the wall to see what would stick. And nothing did.
There was also some mild slut-shaming and a few racist comments from Kayla’s POV and I wasn’t a huge fan of that.
I just- I think I’m done with Margaret Peterson Haddix’s contemporary. And no, I don’t think it’s a case of, “Her new books aren’t as good as the old ones” because I just read THE STRANGERS a few weeks ago, and that one was amazing. I just think that her contemporary isn’t something I’m a huge fan of.
All in all, not a dumpster fire, but definitely could have been better.